Introduction: Solar Garden Sculpture

About: Have been called a "Mad Genius" of Interior Design. Love a challenge, especially upcycling trash. Have more ideas/day than Trump has lawsuits. Diagnosed with Parkinson's 6 years ago. The body goes to hell, …

Make a solar garden sculpture

from reclaimed wood.

Tis the time of year when many of us start using our decks only to discover that time and mother nature have turned it into a death trap. Because we're (mostly) responsible adults, we rebuild. Because we're makers, we can't bring ourselves to throw away wood (scrap and used) that may have a couple of good years left. Let the games begin.....

Having a slight obsession for garden art (especially if it's shiny or lights up) I opted to make a solar garden sculpture. Not a woodworker by nature, it had to be easy. We ended up with a LARGE quantity of used 2x2's and scrap, so that guided our design. (Side note: not having anticipated that I would be making an Instructable-this is my first-I didn't document the process. Therefore, some of the pictures are recreated to the best of my ability).

These instructions can easily be adapted based on the materials you have on hand, but you will need the following:

Scrap/used wood. In our case, approximately 40-50 pieces of 2x2's. Also3 -2x6. cut to 24".

Various scrap (1x4, 2x4 to join base)

Chop/miter saw (overhead arm saw or table saw)

2 1/2" finish nails or #8 2 1/2" screws

Power drill with bits to pre-drill for nails and/or screws

(a drill press would've come in real handy here).

Masonry drill bit

measuring tape


Solar Rope light (50 light variety was plenty) Length averages approx 20'.

2 rubber grommets that solar rope will fit through. (3/8 " to 1/2")

White glass/plastic globe (you have flexibility here. I found a round globe with a 4" base at Habitat RE-Store)

4" clay saucer (the kind used for flower pots, or suitable substitute)

Double sided mounting tape

wire to fish solar light through sculpture

Work gloves, unless you don't mind splinters

Safety glasses

Sand paper (80-120 grit)

Step 1: Start by Drilling a Hole....

Start by drilling a hole
in the center of your clay saucer, large enough to accommodate your grommet. Use of a grommet is optional, but it will help to keep your globe attached to your structure. Test feed your solar rope through one of your grommets, through the hole in your saucer and into your globe. Affix the clay saucer to your globe using double sided mounting tape. Remove the solar rope.

(You could use other items on hand to replace the saucer and support the globe on top of the tower, as long as you can create a hole for the light rope and the support is large enough to hold the base of the globe. Tin can, plastic lid, wooden bowl or disc, cork trivet. You get the idea).

Step 2: Start Your Tower From the Top

Begin your tower from the top. Each layer of the tower are 2 squares (or almost squares) set at 45 degree angles to each other. Each successive layer is 1" wider than the layer above. The first layer, which needs to hold your globe, was made from a square using 2-5" and 2-7" 2x2's . Size your first layer to match your globe. (As you know, a 2x2 isn't two inches by two inches, but I'm too lazy to worry about perfect squares, so I used measurements that would be easy to measure and remember.)

After cutting and sanding the pieces, I pre-drilled through the 7" pieces, approx 3/4" from the ends. Using your 2 1/2 " nails or screws, join the pieces together to form a square (rectangle). The screws will make the structure stronger, but not everyone has the strength to drive that much length of screw. I used 2 1/2" nails. Worked fine. At this point you'll be pre-drilling at every point of attachment.

Step 3: Cut Your Layers

Continue your tower,increasing your piece length by 1" every 2 squares.

First layer: 2-5", 2-7"

next layer: 2-6", 2-8",

next: 2-7",2-9", etc, until you have the height you need (or as much weight as you can handle).

My bottom layer cuts were 15"x13", which brought the structure (with base) to 35" tall. I used 18 squares total. Had weight not been a factor, I would have kept going.

Step 4: Build Your Base

Cut 3-2x6 to 24" length. Lay right sides (clean sides) down next to each other. Using other scrap on hand, lay these pieces perpendicular to the 2x6's. I pre-drilled and used 2 1/2" screws to go through the scrap, but you could use nails and wood glue as well. (I've always heard this called 'sistering', but if there's another term for this technique please let me know).

Flip over and sand. You're now ready to build your structure.

Step 5: Assemble the Tower From Its Base

Center your largest square on the base. Screw into base. Use at least 4 (or more) screws as this baby will be heavy and you don't want it to loosen up when you move it. Lay the second square of this size at a 45 degree angle to the first. Attach to first square. Move to the next size and repeat until you've attached all your squares together.

Step 6: Fill the Globe With Light

Attach your solar panel to the base of your structure. Depending on the model of solar rope you choose, you can screw directly into base (my choice) or stake the panel into the ground near the base of the structure.

Position your panel so it gets the recommended amount of light. Feed the loose end of the rope light through the grommet tucked into the bottom of your tower. (This step is optional, but the grommet will help keep the rope taut, which will help keep the globe stable). With a piece of wire (or a friend with a very long, skinny arm), pull the rope to the top. Feed 18 feet of rope into that end through the grommet in the clay saucer and into your globe (don't worry, the globe can take it). Set the globe into your top square. As an added precaution, I added more mounting tape where the globe met the square, for extra stability. If you don't have mounting tape, then cut up a pool noodle and line the inside of the top square to give it some extra grip.


Let it charge and wait until dark. It's the next best thing to the lighthouse at Alexandria and you've turned trash into something wonderful!

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